Daly City, CA (August 2, 2005)–Recently mixing sound for Morning Glory, the opening act on Coldplay’s UK leg of their world tour, Timm Cleasby had little trouble getting to grips with the new Digidesign Venue live mixing system. Also doubling as tour manager, Cleasby has wide experience of the new generation of digital desks, and was completely unfazed by his baptism on the Venue.
Said the sound engineer, who toured with The Darkness for the duration of last year, “I’d had experience of Pro Tools so I knew instinctively what the plug-ins and EQ’s were going to sound like. With the Digidesign pedigree it’s scarcely surprising that the sound is so good.” By saving and downloading a number of the band’s shows he was able to review his mixes at leisure.
For his exposure to the modular system, he needs to thank seasoned sound engineer Robb Allen (Manic Street Preachers, Thrills). Allen became an early adopter of the Venue mixing system–thanks to a chance shoot out he was able to set up with a reference analog desk on a Manics pre-production day at Cardiff International Arena. Now, six months later, he said, a ten-minute induction on the Venue is all digital-savvy engineers tend to need.
“For that initial shoot-out we were able to take the split off the active stage box to the stage box of the digital multicore and create a true A/B situation,” he remembered.
In front of other eminent sound engineers–such as Huw Richards who was babysitting–he invited the band’s backline crew to play for him, and set to work. “We asked the drum tech to play the drums, and I was much happier with the drum sound on the digital board. The bass was much of a muchness, but when we did the keyboards, the top end sounded so crisp it was scary. We all agreed the digital info had a clarity and separation missing from the analog set-up.”
Initially Robbie admits they struggled with the guitar sound–but he was yet to access the plug-ins–and the sweep on the board between analog-style FX and digital EQ. “We switched to the Focusrite EQ and some of the other plug-ins and dirtied up the sound. The plug-ins are such faithful simulations of the valve type sound that the vocal and acoustic guitar reference we got was amazing.”
He then moved comfortably around the functions of the desk, remaining on the plug-ins page “so that whichever channel I selected the current states of the plug-ins were shown on the screen.”
He noted, “The reverbs and effects built into the Venue sounded great and the plug-in FX units offered so many options I only explored the fringes. The other great thing that keeps the sound tight is the latency correction–all the plug-ins and FX are automatically time-corrected which means the phase cohesion of the desk is stunning.”
After a brief soundcheck he decided to use it for the show. “The advantages of signal path clarity added to the virtual analog plug-ins improved the sound to such an extent that it outweighed the ‘comfort zone’ of my familiar equipment. By then it just felt entirely natural.”
The heart of the Digidesign Venue’s architecture is the D-Show mixing console, accompanied by the Mix Engine, a Stage Rack I/O unit (with recallable, remote-controlled preamps) and a multi-channel, dual-redundant digital snake. As a modular base system it is infinitely configurable. The mix engine provides EQ and dynamic processing on every input channel along with assignable graphic EQ’s, supporting 96 mic inputs and 27 busses.
Aside from its support for Pro Tools TDM recording/editing options, engineers exposed to the Venue have reportedly been impressed by the board’s flexibility and sonic clarity–remarking on the quality of the pre-amps. Allen was attracted to that flexibility when he first took it on tour. “It freed up so much space because I didn’t need to have my racks,” he said, “when I looked at the processing blocks on the screen it just looks like a bunch of racks sat by my desk.
“As for the multitrack facilities I can record the show onto a USB and take it away, before deciding whether to proceed with the mix. I can then swap between pages on the desk.” And Cleasby feels the same.
This feature is particularly useful on a tour with a number of different support bands. “With the Venue I am simply able to program in all the inserts in advance, and download it to a USB key,” said Robb. “It makes perfect sense to me.”
In addition to the Coldplay tour, the Digidesign Venue has been handling mixing duties with a wide variety of other shows over the past month–from Live8 in Paris to the Montreux Jazz Festival, and with acts as diverse as the Cure and Placebo to Rufus Wainwright.